As the sunny days inexplicably continue, we are all susceptible to that most summery activity: the picnic. Dispelling memories of soggy sandwiches and wasps hanging around your slightly mushy strawberries, it’s hard to resist the pull of the great outdoors. Or at least the park up the road. For those who venture into the al fresco approach to lunch, it soon becomes clear which category of picnic-aficionado they fall into.
For these slapdash eaters, a picnic is not an event to be taken seriously. In all likelihood they left the house with grass-bound dining at the bottom of their list of things to do today, although they’re not going to say no if the opportunity presents itself. The very nature of this lack of commitment can manifest itself in one of two ways. When they get the text/call/someone suggests it in the pub, they might simply pop into the nearest Tesco Express and pick up a meal deal. If they’re feeling extravagant, it might stretch to a Subway, possibly even with a Smarties cookie. This lackadaisical approach means they still have what is technically a picnic experience – they are eating outside after all, but with minimum effort and change to routine. An outdoor quickie. They may however go to the opposite extreme. So flushed with the promise of a picnic (perhaps after a long hiatus) they find themselves burdened with five Waitrose carrier bags containing everything from marinated sardines to stuffed vine leaves. They don’t do it often, but when they do, they go all in.
The Casual Crowd
If you rummage around in the cupboards of one of this lot, you will probably find a plastic-backed blanket. Somewhere back there you might even find a set of stacking plastic cups and an almost dried out packet of wet wipes. They’ve dabbled a little, are even settled to the prospect of it happening again, but are not quite ready to make a full commitment. The advantage of belonging to this group is that you’re not completely caught unawares by a freakishly persistent sunny day; you have options. There probably is a jar of olives in the fridge that you can turn into a Greek salad (admittedly you have to go and buy the feta) and at a stretch you might have one of those multi-compartment snack selections, even if it is a little out of date. Sure, you’ve been slightly scarred from the time someone thought a candle was a good idea as it got dark, or a frisbee ended up in your houmous, but you’re not afraid to get out there and try again.
The easiest way to spot this particular brand of picnicker (yes, it is actually a word) is from the sizeable rucksack strapped onto their back. Such a pain to be dragging that heavy weight around with you all the time. But arguably, their devotion leads to a more fulfilling experience. It unfolds, Transformer-like, into a full seating area with cutlery, plates, napkins (with holders!), condiments, champagne flutes and a wine cooler. Tucked away in a separate compartment there are stacking tupperware containers with luscious goodies that would make your granny blush. They have aperitifs, nibbles, a main course, a carving knife, cool champagne (with a plastic bottle of cassis) and a myriad of puddings. If you sit close by, you may feel slightly cheated by your limp stick of celery and Sainsbury’s basics dip selection. But like all commitments, there is a price. After you’ve chucked your Subway wrapper or, at most, rolled up your blanket, you can head to the pub for some al fresco drinking, while this lot have to go home and do the washing up. It takes love and dedication, but for some, it’s the only way to do it.
Wherever your foray into outdoor eating takes you, the most essential ingredient is love. Or alcohol. And probably a ball or a frisbee, because you might get a bit bored. Oh and suncream.
Sod it, you could just eat at the pub.
*Other supermarkets/fast food outlets are available.